September 5, 2009
To make good on that 10:10 committment of reducing your CO2 by 10% by 2010, how are you going to do it?
Here are three things you can do to get started:
1. Sign up to 10:10
If you haven’t made a committment to the 10% reduction, go to the 10:10 website and sign up. That’s important. It adds to the volume of people and business that have signed up, and makes it harder for the government to ignore, so there’s something useful for them to take to Copenhagen. You can sign up as a person or as a business or as a school or an organisation.
2. Look at the Guardian G2 guide to get ideas where to make changes
The Guardian published a really clear guide to personal carbon reductions, with simple actions and real numbers. They start with averages of CO2 per year then lists lots of actions you can take to make CO2 savings. It begins:
Every year, each person in the UK is, on average, responsible for about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (The government’s published figures suggest a lower amount, but they omit things such as international aviation.) So, if we want to make a genuine cut of 10% across the board, we need to reduce our emissions by about 1.4 tonnes each. Let’s call it 1.5 tonnes, just to be sure.
And goes on with useful savings you can make by tonnes per year. This is the best short reference I have seen so far.
3. Start an EcoTeam, measure and reduce
Gather your neighbours or online friends and start measuring, learning and reducing your Rubbish, Energy, Water and Travel. Sign up and create an EcoTeams online — invite friends, and start measuring and learning and reducing your usage.
You can sign up online now and get started gathering your team together.
EcoTeams is one of my favourites, perhaps because I’ve been working on several releases of the EcoTeams website over the last couple of years. This latest version makes fully online EcoTeams easy, and support you a lot in taking measurements and inviting others to get involved.
Here are three ways to get started. I’ll do an update article in a few days with a few more online resources to have a look at, incluing using power saving plug adapter things, energy monitors and turning things off.
September 1, 2009
Great film. Please go and see it or put on a screening if you haven’t seen it already.
It puts the case for doing something to avoid a future climate disaster. But what can you practically do now? That’s the question that 10:10 answers. Reduce your carbon footprint 10% in 2010. Not that hard, just takes a small behaviour change or two and there you are, part of the (positive) future.
Sign up, take on the future and Do Something:
One of the actions you can take on as a part of you 10:10 action is to join an EcoTeam, to work with you community or group of friends to measure and reduce your energy, water, waste and travel in a small group working together. By measuring your resource use, and making your results visible, you get to see how you can change your behaviour. Doing this in community helps you make a change and feel good about it, by doing it together.
I spend most of my days building and enhancing the EcoTeams website and measurement and reporting tools, so I’ve seen it work and have seen the positive, carbon saving, money saving results that people get from it. 10% is achievable and worth doing. You save the planet and save money and feel good. Beat that.
February 10, 2009
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, has today announced Google PowerMeter, a tool that will take energy consumption data from smart household energy meters and make the data available and easy to understand.
This will be very useful to bring social energy measurement alive, where you and I can compare our energy use and work out how to reduce it. It helps that Google.org are also pushing for free and open access to energy data for consumers. This from their December submission to Californian energy regulators:
Accordingly, Google urges the Commission to include the following principles in its smart grid policy, discussed in greater detail below:
- Consumers should have direct access to real-time electricity usage information.
- Electricity usage information should be freely available to consumers.
- Electricity usage data should be made available in a standardized, open format, freely available to third-parties with permission from the consumer.
Freely available, standardised, open access to real-time energy data. Once consumers have that, they can close the loop and easily reduce consumption.
The Google PowerMeter looks like access to smart meter billing information placed into some energy visualizations tools, and what also looks like some detection of the signature of particular appliances energy use.
Here’s an introductory video:
That all looks very cool.
The part that really interests me is that this gives a big push forward for open access to energy data, which then allow a whole ecosystem of tools and applications to develop to aid people in reducing their energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and money spent on energy.
Once we can make these energy measurements available, we can make them social, compare with each other, learn and save energy.
For a long time the big energy industries haven’t been too interested in opening up and giving us information, especially real-time information.
Let’s hope PowerMeter comes out of testing soon, and we get to see it operating here in the UK. And let’s get these open standards up and running ASAP. We’ve got a lot of measuring to do and changes to make to bring our energy consumption down.
February 9, 2009
You may recall news stories last month claiming that a google search results in 7g of CO2 emissions. This story resulted in a storm of comment and reporting, a clarification from google (0.2g per search), and somewhat of a clarification from the original study’s author. But all the resulting hoo har goes to show:
- The original claim was woefully unclear as reported
- Releasing research headlines without the research is troublesome and results in misunderstandings
- We’ll need to get a lot better at identifying what we are actually measuring when talking energy and CO2
I want to break this story down and inject some facts in, and hopefully we’ll learn something in the process.
So, starting at the beginning:
The Sunday Times reported on January 11 that a Google search produced about 7g of CO2. In their words:
Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.
While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g.
Now, you’d hope the rest of the article would go on to clarify this a bit. That 7g per search. What does that include? Where are the boundaries drawn around what a search is? Not explained. So, that get left to indivudual interpretation and that’s where this sort of measurement and claim gets messy and there is a resulting storm of voices claiming This and That.
Google quickly posted a blog post and said that the energy required by Google’s servers to handle one search is 0.2g CO2.
Supposedly measuring the same thing, but we have over an order of magnitude difference? This comes down to what is actually being measured, as later clarifications revealed.
The original 7g of CO2 per search was actually made up from several searches and a few minutes of time sitting at a PC, and it included the energy of the PC used to start the search, not just Google’s servers. Here’s the Jan 16 clarification by The Times:
A report about online energy consumption (Google and you’ll damage the planet, Jan 11) said that “performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle” or about 7g of CO2 per search. We are happy to make clear that this does not refer to a one-hit Google search taking less than a second, which Google says produces about 0.2g of CO2, a figure we accept. In the article, we were referring to a Google search that may involve several attempts to find the object being sought and that may last for several minutes. Various experts put forward carbon emission estimates for such a search of 1g-10g depending on the time involved and the equipment used
Bingo. That’s the detail we originally needed. It ain’t about Google’s servers or the search itself, but about you sitting down in front of a foot-warming PC with a big, bright screen and tapping away for a bit trying to find something out. And we now have a range of 1g to 10g depending on circumstances.
So, the mention of Google at all in the story is pretty spurious, they claim 0.2g for their part of the search, the rest is elsewhere. A more correct statement could to be something like… “Using a PC and the Internet produces CO2 at the rate of between 1 and 10g CO2 per few minutes depending on your computer setup and what you are doing” (or something like that, please don’t quote this statement).
Basically, the Sunday Times got it wrong. They did the classic lazy blame-somebody-else story, blaming the CO2 on Google, when it is really much more about a home PC and how it is used, and the rest of the Internet equipment used to move all that data around.
One more quote, from a followup article from TechNewsWorld put it basically to rest:
One problem: the study’s author, Harvard University physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, says he never mentions Google in the study. “For some reason, in their story on the study, the Times had an ax to grind with Google,” Wissner-Gross told TechNewsWorld. “Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site.”
And the example involving tea kettles? “They did that. I have no idea where they got those statistics,” Wissner-Gross said.
An average 0.02g of CO2 per second. That’s 1.2g per minute, or 72g CO2 per hour.
Contrast that to driving your car, which likely produces 200g CO2 per km or more. Drive 1km, or browse the net for nearly three hours?
February 3, 2009
Let the world change you and you can change the world.
(Deje el mundo cambiarle y usted puede cambiar el mundo.)
– Che Guevara
In this post, I (Graeme) will talk a bit about my past, and how that rather neatly scaffolds the future. How the world has changed me and how that helps me move on to change the world. This is part storytelling, part announcement.
First, the announcement:
I’m going to start intentionally focussing most of my blog postings here at Nodestone on CO2 and carbon calculators, carbon footprints, carbon pricing and offsets, and most importantly, social measurement and reporting to help reduce our CO2 production.
Note: Libby is still going to be posting on authenticity in blogging, social media, education etc, making it accessible for all — those topics that she’s working on out in the world.
Why blog about this stuff?
Because this is what I’m working on, as a consultant, architect and developer, bringing systems engineering, web tools and social media to bear on CO2 measurement and reporting.
And now the story:
I grew up a son of big oil. My parents met while both working for BP. My Dad, Don Sutherland, was Operations Superintendent for the BP Oil Refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia. He was, as I understand, responsible for the day to day operations of the place. We’d probably call that role COO these days. He had hundreds of people working under him to keep things safe and running smoothly. No easy job. Refining oil is a high-pressure, high-temperature, dangerous process that you have to get right, or Things Go Boom.
So, the family was, as we might say now, in the Energy business.
Fast forward to 1999.
I started using my skills as a systems engineer and software developer to build tools for energy management, in particular lighting automation for very large buildings Buildings like 60 story office blocks and massive stadiums. Lots of lights, massive energy use and energy costs, so managing the lighting to bring the energy usage down is a very good thing, and makes the sort of work I was doing quite valuable. We sold that product to a major control systems maker, and then I worked to refine that product for some years as their business grew. Energy was getting more expensive, and the return on investment kept improving. That product is now installed all over the place in massive public buildings (eg. Sydney Opera House, Wembley Stadium), saving energy day after day.
Amongst all of that, my partner Libby and I put a lot of effort into bringing the issues of sustainability and particularly sustainable business to the fore via the Sustainable Business Network we formed in 1999. We were a bit early there, the popular consciousness hadn’t really grok’d climate change at that point, but we met and talked with a lot of people who had understood sustainability and gained a lot of insight into what is was all about.
We moved back to the UK in 2006. And after spending a bit of time pricing derivatives in investment banking land (very useful when it comes to carbon pricing), I was back in energy conservation and reporting again, and have spent the last 18 months developing social tools for groups to measure and report together to cement behaviour change. And building more energy management tools. And building carbon and ROI calculators. I’ve been speaking at Barcamp about resilience, building a local solar-powered internet as an exercise in using less energy.
So, it seems like now is the time to take CO2 measurement and reporting to the next level. Let’s make it social. We’re entering a world where the amount we use does matter, we accept that. Fortunately we have the communications tools to make us more aware of what we are using. That supports resource conservation and, ultimately, could help turn the tide on climate change. The big goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. That’s been legislated. Which means businesses and households are going to have to get used to measuring, reporting on, and using less energy.
It all sounds do-able to me. Let’s make it happen.